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Metaphor and the Language of Futures


Metaphor and the Language of Futures
Cognitive function of metaphor
Sensing the future
Importance of the choice of metaphor
Metaphoric traps in sensing the future
Key metaphoric frames conditioning policy
Reframing institutional initiatives
Configurations of metaphors

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Abridged version published in a special issue of Futures April 1993, pp. 275-288. A variant appeared in New Thinking for a New Millenium: the knowledge base for future studies Routledge, 1995. edited by Richard Slaughter.


This paper briefly recalls some of the cognitive functions of metaphor. It then goes on to consider features of language which tend to condition ways of approaching the future -- even to the point of being considered metaphoric traps. The concern is to highlight unexplored opportunities for reframing attitudes to what may emerge, whether as problems, organizations, information systems or conceptual frameworks. It is those foms of metaphor that enhance or constrain individual or collective strategies that are of prime interest.

The focus here is on issues in English. The challenges are multiplied many-fold when other languages are taken into consideration -- especially when it is assumed that translations between languages do not raise fundamental conceptual issues (1).